In the last few weeks I’ve had three discussions, one with a group of publishers and two others with folks who organise two different writing prizes.
And my thoughts after these discussions are that most Batswana writers don’t take their own writing seriously, but expect others to, which makes no sense to me.
Here are some of the examples of behaviour that has made me come to this conclusion:
1. A writer sends in a submission after the deadline and asks to be excused.
2. A writer sends in a submission which does not follow the writing guidelines for length or for formatting.
3. A writer submits a manuscript and then when asked who they think might want to buy and read their book, the person says “everyone”.
4. A writer has written a book he expects others to buy, but he never buys or reads books himself.
5. A writer sends in a submission that has no name or contact details. Anywhere.
6. A writer does not place in the long list for a prize and writes a nasty email to the organisers demanding a detailed reader’s report on the submission.
7. A writer sends in a rough draft.
8. A writer submits a hand written manuscript.
9. A writer agrees to have an edited manuscript to the publisher on a certain date but never submits it. Ever.
I really don’t understand any of this. Either you’re serious about your writing or you are not.
If you’re not, why are you wasting people’s time?
Prize organisers and judges are almost exclusively volunteers.
I have done both of these jobs and they are extremely time consuming.
These people are doing the job to help our literary community, why would you make their work harder buy submitting work in such an unprofessional way?
Publishers are in business in a very a harsh environment, they have little time for writers who are not serious and yet it seems that is all they come in contact with.
I remember a man who shouted about how publishers were crooks and they had cheated him by giving him a rejection for his manuscript.
I saw the manuscript. It was hand written, stuffed in a plastic Spar bag, dog eared, dirty, and obviously the only copy.
Is this a writer that a publishing company would want to deal with?
The man went on to tell me how he made a complaint to the Office of the President because his book was rejected.
I was gobsmacked and, quite frankly, embarrassed for him.
I guess I’ve grown tired now. I get messages, emails, and phone calls from writers who are dying to be published.
They contact me hoping I can give them an easy way to get published.
What they want is to see their name on the cover of a book.
What they don’t want is to put in the effort required to produce a manuscript worthy of publishing. There is no easy way- you must put in the work, that’s it.
That’s the magic answer.
Rejections and contest losses are good.
They tell us we’re not quite there.
They tell us to get back to work.
For every writer, from the most well known to the unpublished, they are on a journey to improve.
Always. If you don’t want to improve, if you don’t want to set off on a professional path, then don’t submit your work.
Let it remain a hobby.
Write, read to your friends, but do not trouble people who are taking Botswana’s literature seriously when you most certainly are not.
Sadly, what is happening nowadays, instead of taking the journey, people think they are done though they’ve not even started the motor.
Then they send off a half thought out, half implemented manuscript, and instead of viewing the inevitable rejection letter as a learning tool, they see it as a bit of nonsensical rubbish.
It is that poisonous mixture of entitlement and arrogance that is so problematic.
They then go off and self publish- usually without an editor.
Nothing truly has been accomplished here.
Certainly not something to celebrate.